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[192] Discourse on entrepreneurial society

The empirical analyses underlying this book (Marttila, 2013a, b) have shown how
the entrepreneurialization of society has been fueled in official political discourse in Swe-
den since the mid-1990s. The following empirical study will elaborate the contours of the
space of interdiscursivity, in which the schools were ascribed the responsibility for edu-
cating entrepreneurial subjects. The empirical study covers around 20 key texts of
Swedish political discourse between 1999 and 2009 that were scrutinized with regard to
the included discourse structure by using a qualitative coding process following Glasze
(2007) and Marttila (2015b, c; 2013a). The primary literature quoted here is not listed in
the References for reasons of space. A complete list of primary literature can be found in
Marttila (2013a). The goal of this discourse analysis is not only to identify the order of
discourse which formed the foundation of society’s entrepreneurialization, but also to
describe governance technologies used by schools to subjectivate students to entrepre-
The urgency attributed to society’s general entrepreneurialization originated from
a discourse on knowledge-based economy, which emerged in the mid-1990s and has been
dominating Swedish economy and economic policy ever since. The transition into an in-
ternationally competitive knowledge-based economy was considered the only way to
maintain the welfare society, which depends on full employment and a high wage level
(Government Bill 2000/01: 1; Department Report 2004: 36, p. 1). Knowledge-based eco-
nomy took over the job of a nodal point by forming a new economic meta framework or
“imaginary,” which formed the backdrop to the conceptualization of the tasks, responsi-
bilities and interactions between various actors, institutions and areas of society (Jessop,
2004, p. 168; Jessop and Oosterlynck, 2008, pp. 1157f). In Swedish discourse on econo-
mic policy, the transition to a knowledgebased economy was accepted as an objective fact
that formed the overriding imperative for action for economy’s political governance.
Working as a nodal point, the knowledge-based economy symbolized the identity of a
new space of interdiscursivity within which the relationships and interactions between
political, economic and education-related institutions could be re-conceptualized and re-
Society’s general restructuring into a “knowledge-based society” was considered
the primary functional requirement of the knowledge-based economy. This imperative
was rooted in an argumentation launched by influential Swedish economic scientists and
innovation theoreticians like Charles Edquist and Gunnar Eliasson claiming that econo-
mic growth in the knowledge-based economy depends on an increase of efficiency [193]
generated by technological and organizational innovations. The OECD estimated that by
2010 more than half of the workforce would be active in a knowledge-intensive, flexible
economic production (Government Bill, 1997/98: 62, p. 150; cf. Government Bill,
1995/96: 206; Marttila, 2014, p. 272). As early as 1989, the OECD report Towards an
‘Enterprising’ Culture pointed out that the workforce in a knowledge-based economy
would require entrepreneurial competences and attitudes due to the general logic of kno-
wledge-intensive production. A general training on entrepreneurship would make it pos-
sible that “young people ... learn, usually on an experimental basis, about business start-
up and management” and at the same time develop the competence “to be creative and
exercise initiative and responsibility and to be able to solve problems” (OECD, 1989, pp.
5f; cf. Smyth, 2004, pp. 36ff). These different assumptions – that the welfare society can
only be maintained by establishing the knowledge-based economy; that the transition into
the knowledgebased economy was unstoppable; and that all subjects employed in the

knowledge-based economy would pursue entrepreneurial activities and, hence, need en-
trepreneurial competences and attitudes – formed the imperative of action for introducing
an obligatory training in entrepreneurship, which should be rooted in the schools.
Training in entrepreneurship was part of a comprehensive educational offensive
designed to make Sweden a globally leading “knowledge nation” which, in turn, was
considered the prerequisite of an internationally competitive knowledge-based economy
(Government Bill, 1995/96: 207; 2000/01: 1; 2003/04: 1D19). This educational offensive
aimed at adjusting both general competences and individual learning processes to the re-
quirements of the knowledge based economy. It was implemented in the schools in the
form of a general “projectification” of human capital formation (Marttila, 2014, p. 272).
This strategy implied that students should carry out their own learning processes in an
independent manner in the form of individual learning projects. This projectification also
mirrored the assumption that the anticipated flexibilization of economic production in the
knowledge-based economy would require a corresponding projectification of human ca-
pital formation. The governance techniques used to aim at projectification and implement
it included, for instance, the decentralization of the previously uniform national curricu-
lum determined by the government. This would make it possible for local schools to ad-
just school education continuously to societal change as a whole and, in particular, to the
change of the local and regional economy (cf. Dahlstedt and Hertzberg, 2012, p. 247).
Another governance technique sought to change the [194] teachers’ role concept so much
that teaching could take place in the form of projects in which the students assumed more
and more responsibility and rights of participation. Both the traditional forms of teaching
– such as frontal teaching and teaching in classes – and the teachers’ traditional role con-
cept as the mediator of standardized knowledge were criticized, as they only generated
standardized, statistically measurable knowledge, which is of little practical relevance for
future work in “learning organizations” and “de-hierarchized working structures” that are
typical of the knowledge-based economy (LFB: Union of Swedish Teachers et al., 1999,
p. 7; Government Communication, 1996/97: 112). Projectification of human capital for-
mation meant, on the one hand, that schooling was sub-divided into several project-like
work and theme blocks and, on the other hand, that students should fuel their learning
processes in the form of “individual projects” (Dahlstedt and Hertzberg, 2012, p. 247;
Marttila, 2014, pp. 272f.; SKL: Association of Swedish Municipalities, 2004, p. 5). As a
consequence, the teacher’s role was meant to be reduced to the function of a “professional
manager ... who supports the development of students’ knowledge” (LFB et al., 1999, p.
At the same time, projectification of human capital formation presumed that stu-
dents would take on individual responsibility for their learning processes in a hitherto
unforeseen manner and take an active part in maximizing and renewing their human ca-
pital constantly thus following the role model of an entrepreneur (Beach and Dovemark,
2007, p. 9; SOU, 1999: 63). In this context, the entrepreneur and the associated compe-
tences, attitudes and activities served as a guideline for the design and realization of the
individual students’ learning processes and projects. Making the entrepreneur the subject
ideal of the learning subject was based on the assumption that the anticipated future par-
ticipation in the knowledge-based economy would require the possession of entrepreneu-
rial qualities, ways of thinking and acting. This included, above all, the general readiness
for innovation action and active problem solving, but also the will to tackle new paths
(Department Report, 2004: 36, p. 13). To adjust to the functional requirements of the
knowledgebased economy, society must

be characterized by positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship in all its facets far
more than today. More entrepreneurial individuals who see a chance to contribute
to societal development will be needed to fuel regional [economic] development.
It [entrepreneurship] includes ... amongst other things the mobilization of the
supplied opportunities for innovation, development and marketing of new [195]
products and services, processes and common solutions. (Government Bill,
2001/02: 4, p. 187)

The urgency to take over entrepreneurial competences, ways of thinking and ac-
ting was strengthened for various reasons. The post-war Swedish economic model has
been frequently called “capitalism without capitalists” (Johannson and Magnussen, 1998)
or a capitalism of a “third way” between market-centered and state-centered economy
(Blyth, 2001). The traditional Keynesian economic policy was primarily geared toward
the needs of large, internationally acting key industries and was meant to motivate these
to pursue the continued increase of their productiveness by exercising a politically driven
pressure of development outside the economy (Stephens, 1996, p. 39). Along with the
acknowledged inevitability of a fast transition into a knowledge-based economy, the un-
derstanding kept growing that the entrepreneurial competences, attitudes and activities
required for the functioning of the knowledge-based economy did not exist right from the
start. Instead, it was necessary to generate the qualities characterizing an entrepreneur by
applying adequate societal institutions and governance technologies. Traditional gover-
nance technologies designed to promote the foundation of new enterprises – including
grants for founders (e.g. Starta ditt eget bidrag ) and state-provided investment loans –
did not suffice to bring about a comprehensive cultural change of society (Government
Bill, 1995/95: 206, Chapter 4; 2001/02: 4). Ultimately, it was not only company founders
that would have to think and act in entrepreneurial terms, but generally all subjects, since
entrepreneurial competences are “not only qualities required by company founders, but
competences needed by all subjects eager to engage in some activity within an enterprise
or some other organization” (Department Report, 1997: 78, p. 16).
The metaphorization of entrepreneurial qualities to significant competences for all
creative subjects suggested that priority was given to school when it comes to society’s
entrepreneurialization especially because of its possibility to subjectivate all subjects (De-
partment Report, 2004: 36; 1999: 32; Government Bill, 2003/04: 1; Johannisson, Madsén,
and Wallentin, 2000; cf. Marttila, 2013a, p. 174). The assumption that all subjects possess
some latent creative cultural capital suggested that responsibility for entrepreneurializa-
tion was to be handed over to such institutions that traditionally were charged with socia-
lizing and educating all subjects (Department Report, 1996/97: 112, p. 31; Government
Bill, 2001/02: 4, p. 119; NUTEK, 2007, pp. 24f). To make sure that all schools advanced
society’s entrepreneurialization, schools [196] were legally obliged to implement “edu-
cation in entrepreneurship” that was introduced in 1997 and further specified in 2002 in
the framework of the “National Programme for Entrepreneurship.” “Education in Entre-
preneurship” acted as a governance technique as it was to be used to supply all students
with entrepreneurial ways of thinking and acting as part of a practical training for the
founding, development and management of enterprises (Government Bill, 2001/02: 100,
p. 31; 2005/05: 1, p. 29; NUTEK, 2007, p. 2; cf. Mahieu, 2006, pp. 140ff). The finding
that entrepreneurial competences and attitudes did not naturally exist in Sweden in parti-
cular corroborated the need to introduce further governance techniques helping to conti-
nually measure and evaluate the current state of society’s entrepreneurialization. These
governance techniques included a wide variety of different statistical tools used to

measure the population’s general attitude toward entrepreneurship as well as entrepre-
neurial qualities and practices over the course of time. To this end, a so-called “entrepre-
neurship barometer” was established in 2000 that measured the population’s attitude to-
ward entrepreneurship (Department Report, 2004: 36, p. 40; NUTEK, 2003). The results
of this entrepreneurship barometer were compared with the results of similar American
(cf. Mahieu, 2006, pp. 147f) and global surveys – such as the Global Entrepreneurship
Monitor (Leffler, 2006, p. 98) – to compare the international competitiveness of the
Swedish “knowledge society,” which accompanies the establishment and distribution of
the culture of entrepreneurship, with the state of other countries’ “knowledge society”
(NUTEK, 2003b, 2009).
As outlined above, the societal effectiveness of discourses is conditioned by the
acceptance of its particular subject roles by the subjects to be subjectivated. The attracti-
veness of entrepreneurial ways of thinking and acting was enhanced in Sweden, for ins-
tance by the pointed association of entrepreneurial competences and activities with an
attractive lifestyle and the entrepreneur’s general heroizing (Leffler, 2006, p. 93). The
entrepreneur’s association with an attractive lifestyle referred to two major aspects:
Firstly, since existing truths, conventions, routines and competences became obsolete
ever faster in the knowledge-based economy due to the accelerated technological change,
it was considered crucial for all subjects – irrespective of their profession and societal
context – to possess creative cultural capital allowing them “to develop and cross borders”
in an independent manner (Parliamentary Minutes, 2003/04: 2; cf. Government Bill,
2001/02: 4). Secondly, the structure of the cultural capital was sub-divided by incorpora-
ting the entrepreneur as a “guiding role model.” At the same time, entrepreneurial com-
petences [197] were metaphorized, since they no longer defined economic qualities but
those of relevance for the entire society. Ultimately, entrepreneurial qualities were

not [only] qualities of significance for individuals wishing to found an enterprise.

They are also competences needed for unfolding an activity within an enterprise
or an organization such as the competence “to tackle matters” and “the ability to
take initiatives and solve problems”. (Department Report, 1997: 78, p. 16)

An entrepreneur’s competences also included the readiness to “deal actively with

problems,” “the ability to solve problems,” the competence “to implement ideas in prac-
tice” (NUTEK, 2003, p. 6) as well as “curiosity, creativity, self-confidence and the ability
to make decisions” (Government Communication, 2009: 9).
Several official documents launched by the Ministry of the Economy and autho-
rities close to the economy (e.g. Government Bill, 1998/99: 115; NUTEK, 2009; 2001)
that directly addressed young people marketed entrepreneurship as an ideal lifestyle by
painting the picture of the entrepreneur as the model of a free and independent subject.
Equalizing the entrepreneur with a free, self-determined lifestyle was also publicly sup-
ported by economic associations such as Svenskt Näringsliv (e.g. Brissman 2011). The
attractiveness of entrepreneurial action was enhanced by the argument that entrepreneu-
rial competences and attitudes “[would be] advantageous irrespective of whether people
would opt for a career as employee or entrepreneur [that is company founder],” since they
would guarantee the individual in question the general ability to act (Government Bill,
2001/02: 100, p. 31). Furthermore, government reports pointed out that excellent oppor-
tunities existed for founding companies and obtaining self-employment above all in the
field of computer technologies, the music and entertainment industries, hence areas which
young people had accessed already in their leisure time as users, consumers and music
fans. The attractiveness of the entrepreneur was explained by claiming that work as an

entrepreneur offered a natural opportunity for unhindered self-development and the rea-
lization of personal dreams (cf. Peterson and Westlund, 2007, pp. 12f). Another source
of creating the entrepreneur’s attractiveness was the general mythification of the entre-
preneur as a heroic actor for whom no insurmountable problem existed. Political debates
addressed to the public glorified the entrepreneur as the universal solution to societal pro-

[198] Sweden needs more enterprises and entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur is a

hope for all of us who request development and change in various [societal] fields.
It is the entrepreneur who creates innovations and solves problems. ... It is the
entrepreneur who makes the world a better place to live in. (Parliamentary Minu-
tes, 2003/2004: 121, remark 59; cf. Johannisson et al., 2000; Marttila, 2013a, pp.


This case study has aimed at elucidating the outlines of the discursive regime in-
volved in the general “entrepreneurializationn of society”. This regime was largely res-
ponsible for society’s entrepreneurialization, which key political actors in Sweden dee-
med necessary if the Swedish economy was to develop into an internationally competitive
knowledgebased economy. In the discourse regime under scrutiny, schools were, above
all, identified as the primary institutions in charge of generating the idealized discursive
order and the related subject roles. The typical and historically unequalled interdepen-
dence between schools, entrepreneurs, the knowledge society and the knowledge-based
economy was established against the backdrop of a space of interdiscursivity linking these
areas. The knowledge-based economy worked as a nodal point representing the horizon
of imagination or space of representation within which schools could be ascribed a pre-
viously unforeseen responsibility for society’s entrepreneurialization. It was, in particu-
lar, the “education in entrepreneurship” that was organized in the framework of the “na-
tional programme for entrepreneurship” and the projectification of human capital forma-
tion that were to advance society’s entrepreneurialization. Depicting the entrepreneur as
the model of a free and independent subject can explain at least part of the subjective
acceptance of the entrepreneur’s subject role. The question as to how exactly the subjec-
tivation of subjects to entrepreneurs proceeds remains to be examined in the framework
of a further empirical study.

Tomas Marttila. Post-Foundational Discourse Analysis From Po-

litical Difference to Empirical Research, Palgrave Macmillan,